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Sword Art Online (SAO) "Ignite" singer Eir Aoi plays Zepp Osaka Bayside, Nov. 14 - Photo Credit: Eir Aoi via Facebook Sword Art Online (SAO) "Ignite" singer Eir Aoi plays Zepp Osaka Bayside, Nov. 14 - Photo Credit: Eir Aoi via Facebook

Music

Sword Art Online ‘Ignite’ singer Eir Aoi plays Zepp Osaka Bayside, Nov. 14

Photo Credit: Eir Aoi via Facebook

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Singer Eir Aoi, known for a multitude of SAO’s most popular opening/closing themes is currently on tour in Japan and playing Zepp Osaka Bayside next Thursday, November 14.

Sword Art Online’s Eir Aoi is soaring over to Osaka next week as part of her AAI EIL Live House Tour 2019. The singer known to SAO fans for opening themes “Ignite”, “Innocence” and closing themes “Iris”, “Niji No Oto”, and “Ryuusei” is playing a gig at Zepp Osaka Bayside on Nov. 14th at 19:00 JST / 7:00 PM. Doors will open at 18:00 JST / 6:00 PM. Further information about the venue for overseas fans currently visiting Japan can be found at this link.

2014 hit single “Ignite” currently enjoys 25 million+ views on YouTube, just a taste of the incredible popularity of SAO owns worldwide. Meanwhile, “Innocence” has a comparable 16 million+ views.


In a SAO dream collaboration, Eir Aoi played a set back in May at the Sacra Music Festival with LiSA, the singer of SAO’s most famous and first opening theme “Closing Fields”. They sang Opening Themes “Ignite” and “Rising Hope” together during the show.

SACRA MUSIC FEST. 2019 -New Generation- is currently available on Blu-ray from Sony.

Sword Art Online Music Timeline:

– “Innocence” was Eir Aoi’s first song featured on SAO (Opening Theme on Episodes #15-25)
– “Niji No Oto” was the Closing theme on film, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition
– “Ignite” featured on Sword Art Online 2 (Opening Theme on Episodes #1-14)
– “Iris” was similarly featured as the first Closing Theme of Sword Art Online: Alicization
– “Ryuusei” was featured as the Opening Theme for Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online

Eir Aoi is also known for her work on anime shows Kill la Kill, Fate/Zero, and The Heroic Legend of Arslan and TV programs like Rank Okoku. She’s been keeping busy in 2019, releasing album Fragment this past April and a plethora of singles. Most recently collaborating with anime Fate once again for “The dream of falling stars” and “Yume”.

After Osaka, Eir Aoi will play two more shows before touring concludes. On Thursday, November 21 at Fukuoka at DRUM LOGOS and Hiroshima at BLUE LIVE Hiroshima. The tour’s chronological order can be found at Eir Aoi’s official website.

Follow Eir Aoi on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for the latest updates from the singer herself!

Nir Regev is the founder of The Natural Aristocrat. You can directly contact him at nir.regev@thenaturalaristocrat.com for coverage consideration, interview opportunties, or general comments.

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Music News

Hikaru Utada’s “Time” music video set for world premiere on YouTube

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Hikaru Utada Promotional Photo - Photo Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Japan
Photo Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Japan

Singer Hikaru Utada, best known to western audiences for her work on the Kingdom Hearts series, will premiere a music video for digital single “Time” over at YouTube on July 28.

Hikaru Utada will premiere a fresh music video for digital single “Time”, the popular theme song of NTV (Nippon TV) network’s Sunday drama series Bishoku Tantei Akechi Goro (Gourmet Detective Goro Akechi). “Time” will see its world premiere on Hikaru Utada’s official YouTube channel on Tuesday, July 28 at 21:00 JST (8:00 EST / 5:00 PST). The video was shot at Hikaru Utada’s London home, with a minimal crew & maximum attention to safety in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has effectively locked down the world.

“Time” was directed by Anthony Gaddis & Eric Tilford, the duo who worked with Mac Miller on songs “Good News” and “Everybody”. The entire process was done remotely in three countries, with the video shot in London, the production done in Los Angeles, and the supervision & release from Japanese label SMEJ (Sony Music Entertainment Japan).

You can watch a teaser trailer above in anticipation of the world premiere of “Time”! In addition, a new Canvas will be released on Spotify, ahead of the video. You can download “Time” now on popular streaming providers Apple Music (+ the iTunes store) and Spotify through this link. Lyrics to the song are also available at this link.

Hikaru Utada “Time” Promo Cover – Photo Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Japan

About Hikaru Utada:

Hikaru Utada Promotional Photo – Photo Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Japan

Hikaru Utada is best known in the west for singing the opening theme songs to Square Enix/Disney collaboration Kingdom Hearts (“Simple and Clean“), Kingdom Hearts II (“Sanctuary“), and Kingdom Hearts III (“Face My Fears” in collaboration with EDM star Skrillex).

Be sure to follow Hikaru Utada on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Visit Hikaru’s Official Website at www.utadahikaru.jp.

Check out The Natural Aristocrat’s Music News Articles section to keep up with breaking news from around the globe. Relive Anime NYC 2019’s SACRA Music Panel by watching Nashma Amir sing an English cover of “Lapis Lazuli” by Eir Aoi (Sword Art Online II’s acclaimed singer of opening theme”Ignite”).

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Film

tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu reflects on ‘The Strangers’ soundtrack (Interview)

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The Strangers (2008) Film - Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay, Scott Speedman as James Hoyt, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, and Gemma Ward as Dollface in The Strangers - Photo Credit: Universal Studios
Photo Credit: Universal Studios / Universal Pictures

tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu reflected back with The Natural Aristocrat on The Strangers’ one of a kind isolating soundtrack, a milestone in the horror genre. A blend of stillness & suspense, preying on the inherent human fear of sounds that go bump in the night.

Nowhere to hide, no place to run. Fight or flight mode in the dead of night, tomandandy’s The Strangers soundtrack in the spotlight. Composer Tom Hajdu, one-half of the musician duo behind production powerhouse tomandandy (along with Andy Milburn), spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about the inspiration of a score that tapped into the most primal of senses. Fear. Dread. Confusion. Terror. Ensnaring the audience’s collective body in a state of alarm from opening to curtain call. An exercise of dark minimalism, where every last detail is meant to send a physical message both actively and to the subconscious.

A soliloquy without words made of cello, layering the calm before the storm. The Strangers and its soundtrack is one of the horror genre’s first-rate examples of synergy, sound perfectly enhancing the picture to great effect. The soft pillowy tones of tracks like “Apology” gently causing viewers to let their guard down… Before snatching their perceived safety of home right out from under them.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® – Based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay, Scott Speedman as James Hoyt, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, and Gemma Ward as Dollface in The Strangers

Interview with Tom Hajdu of tomandandy on The Strangers

The Natural Aristocrat : What was the inspiration for The Strangers’ minimalistic, lonely ambience woven with moments of wild panic? The soundtrack felt reminiscent of composer Bernard Hermann’s work on Psycho, in terms of calmly soothing over the audience before a sudden burst of distilled terror.

tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu: The inspiration behind soundtrack for The Strangers had to do with two things: One, with perspective. A lot of the sounds that are louder in terms of volume or more prominent are actually soft sounds that are very closely miked. Like a Cello playing very, very softly but it’s actually quite loud. Relative to say a distorted, loud electric guitar which is actually very soft in the background. So, it’s playing with these types of perspectives that are non-traditional or unexpected.

The other one was this idea that a lot of the music is really in the silence and try to punctuate that silent space in slightly more thoughtful ways, rather than just try to fill the acoustic space. It was really leveraging ambience and silence as a big piece of the soundtrack. We certainly have a great admiration & respect for Bernard Herrmann’s work!

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Gemma Ward as Dollface, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl.

For me, the pinnacle track of The Strangers is “3 AM Knock” because of its foreboding stillness building into this crescendo ring of fear. It really feels like you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere at dusk with this stampeding dread from all sides. Not knowing what lies beyond the great unknown. What went into crafting that track?

I think it’s also the case that the film silence was a new kind of perspective on horror films. That gave us an opportunity to try and create a slightly different context for music. There was an opportunity there to try to create some slightly innovative approaches to the way in which the music was made.

On that “Opening” track for The Strangers, there’s an eerie, almost 60s era-Alien saucer sound around the middle of the track (1:05). Was that intentional? A subtle metaphor to an alien, home invader so-to-speak.

Yeah, there was a lot of intentionality in mixing strange sounds with familiar sounds! It was a combination of analog, synthetic, and ambient sounds, along with silence, put together in unusual ways. To create combinations that are not necessarily traditional in that respect, or expected.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Kip Weeks as Man in Mask in The Strangers

What instruments were used for The Strangers track “Angry”? It has a unique, screeching buildup to it.

Most of those sounds were made with cello, on process, and electric guitar.

What was the process like when tomandandy were developing The Strangers soundtrack? Was there a clear vision of what you wanted to accomplish immediately or did you experiment?

A lot of it was sitting in a dark room. Looking at the picture, the arc of the film, it goes from subdued & quiet to intensely loud. We were trying to figure out ways to make as little music as possible and rather have the music be part of the larger audio space.

Whether it’s the sound of an engine, the sound of an old record player skipping, or nature itself outside. That’s all part of the audio soundscape for the film. We wanted to take everything into consideration. A less is more situation. I feel (Director) Bryan Bertino’s vision for The Strangers was very successful.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Kip Weeks as Man in Mask in The Strangers

Director Brian Bertino once described a real life, childhood event inspiring the film’s iconic door knocking opening scene. Did tomandandy utilize any kind of similar personal experiences or memories while composing The Strangers’ soundtrack?

I feel composing for me is certainly a combination of all our experiences. We never lose anything, we take everything with us. Combining everything from emerging technologies to primal and visceral experiences.

We try to be open & available to the way the world is unfolding and the way it’s informed our lives over the years. I don’t think we try to filter anything if at all possible, everything is part of our palette.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay

The soundtrack for ‘The Monster‘, another horror film by Director/Writer Bryan Bertino, evokes some Strangers nostalgia. Haunting piano was added on tracks like “Drink” and “Outside” which changed the tone in a noticeable way. What was it like to work on The Monster?

I think The Monster is similarly, a more modern way of looking at horror. We changed the instrumentation on there to combine classic horror scoring with some modern instrumentation and style.

What influenced the Resident Evil: Retribution soundtrack? In particular, the track “Flying Through the Air” which felt like an inspired fusion of electronic music and classical asian violin as its soundscape.

Yeah I feel with regards to the Resident Evil franchise, at that time we were trying to establish a sound for the brand. Which I think we managed to do! Once we established a style, I guess you could call it a language, we could create lots of different types of music within it. That track (“Flying Through the Air”) has that influence to some degree but it’s all couched in the sound of Resident Evil at that point.

Does tomandandy receive film scripts prior to creating soundtracks or more of a general theme and guideline of what the movie will be?

Yes, we often get the scripts before production has begun and speak to the producers & director about the musical direction before they’ve started shooting. There’s been times where we’ve worked on projects after they’ve been shot and edited as well. We’re comfortable working in either way. Usually directors like having those conversations very early on.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay

Are you ever asked to make adjustments mid-way or generally once the soundtrack is complete, it’s final?

Oh sure! I mean each project has its own life cycle in a way. Its own character in the way that it unfolds. We’re just very happy to be part of that process. It’s an organic process and so where we start is often not where we end up. I think that’s true for projects as a whole, they kind of take a life of their own and emerge to become what they were ultimately meant to be.

There’s a quote by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the iconic Super Mario Bros. series, that, “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” Does this notion apply to music and its creative process as well in your opinion? As in, when you’re composing a track and something is just not working… Do you believe in trashing it and starting fresh? Or that if you engage with a track long enough, it’ll eventually become good?

Absolutely, I’m a big fan of the Brian Eno oblique strategy cards, which are cards you can use whenever you’re having a creative block. But I’m also a big fan of just starting from scratch, sometimes it’s good not to be precious about things.

It’s good to be receptive to the possibility of a creative spark because it can really come at any time. It takes a lot of hard work to orchestrate something, to get it just right. But also often times, it’s also useful to just try something new!

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay and Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl.

How does the collaboration process work with Andy ? Are you usually in the studio at the same time these days?

It really depends, we’re very flexible because we’ve been working together for so long! Both of us have fairly broad skill sets and so it really depends on the project. We can both be in the same room or not in the same room. We can both be working on the same track or we can both be working on different tracks. It’s really project specific and context specific, also. It gives us a lot of flexibility to work on all kinds of projects and approach them in creative ways that can produce different aesthetic results.

What is tomandandy currently working on?

We’re currently waiting for a couple of projects to be green-lit, actually. There’s a number of projects where we’re just waiting for the signal… But at the moment we’re kind of in Coronavirus mode. I’m optimistic that things will open up soon, at least from what I’ve been told. Different productions in Canada and Australia for example, are being discussed. It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold as the pandemic subsides hopefully in the future.

Has there been a project that stood out to tomandandy as a favorite over the years?

You know, that’s a tough question because each project really has a life of its own. They have different qualities. The Strangers was certainly a wonderful and powerful experience. We’ve worked with Directors like Johannes Roberts on both 47 Meters Down films, Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) of course, Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies), Jacob Estes (Mean Creek), Roger Avery (Killing Zoe) over time.

So, I’m not sure I could single out one as the very best but a lot of them could be really life changing experiences. Sometimes we’d go to the set for example and were asked to be more involved and sometimes less involved. What we’ve learned over time is to make the most of each of these projects and help to work in collaboration with the rest of the crew to make the project as best it can really be.

Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Scott Speedman as James Hoyt.

Does critical reception of a soundtrack, good or bad, affect your own perception or interpretation of your work?

Great critical reception is a wonderful thing to have! But I don’t think our feelings are hurt if we don’t get it. There’s a lot of music and media that’s always floating in the ether, so not everybody can be acknowledged all the time. I don’t think we necessarily require the acknowledgement but we appreciate it. I feel where we have been fortunate is the feedback from artists, musicians, and directors who are familiar with our work. We really, consistently try to make the best music that we can for any project that we’re involved in.

Thanks Tom!

Thank you!

Follow tomandandy on Social Media:

Visit tomandandy.com and follow tomandandy on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for their latest release updates!

Be sure to check out author J. Blake Fichera’s book Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers which features an earlier interview with tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu.

Read more interviews with the industry’s top talent in The Natural Aristocrat®’s Interview Articles section.

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Interviews

Composer Matthew Carl Earl talks writing Star Trek: Dark Remnant score

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Composer Matthew Carl Earl talks writing Star Trek: Dark Remnant's score - Photo provided by Matthew Carl Earl
Photo provided by Matthew Carl Earl

The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Hexany Audio’s Lead Composer Matthew Carl Earl about his inspirations for Star Trek: Dark Remnant’s musical score.

Matthew Carl Earl may have started off only a Star Wars fan growing up but Michael Giacchino’s 2009 film score for Star Trek stole his heart. After being approached to compose the soundtrack for VRstudios and Dave & Buster’s featured VR attraction, Star Trek: Dark Remnant, he was soaring on cloud 9. Earl would fully immerse himself in anything and everything Star Trek, listening to piece after piece in his car… Imagining every corner of its universe.

Earl told The Natural Aristocrat about the differences of composing for a virtual reality-centric project, using Pro Tools to make the magic happen, and how it’s all in the details. Fun fact for those curious what the ‘Hexany’ in ‘Hexany Audio‘ means: “A Hexany is a contemporary six-note geometric musical structure.”

Interview with Matthew Carl Earl on Star Trek: Dark Remnant

The Natural Aristocrat : How much creative freedom were you given with the Star Trek license for the score?

Matthew Carl Earl: Yeah, I had a lot of freedom, for sure! When we first set off on the project we went through a lot of the Star Trek music and were looking at what we wanted to bring into the game that was just super iconic. Obviously, the Michael Giacchino soundtrack for the 2009 film, was like ‘Duh, we have to use that!’ I mean it’s just so iconic!

We obtained the license for much of that soundtrack, and I wrote and cut the music within that style while employing those themes. But other than that, it was really about staying within the universe and staying true to the whole Star Trek kind of sound. I’d say I was pretty free.

Star Trek: Dark Remnant Crew – Photo Credit: CBS / Paramount Pictures / VRstudios

What’s it like to compose for a VR project? Do you ever wear the headsets yourself while recording to test out the experience so-to-speak?

At our studio, Hexany Audio, we do a good amount of VR games and I’ll always play through the game before I start writing music. Just to get a feel for things and look around, see what the game really feels like. We get a video capture while I’m playing and then I’ll bring that back to my desk when I’m writing. So I’ll watch the video capture and write through it, almost like scoring a film. But even just going through and playing the game to get the experience does help tremendously.

As for the actual music, for me I feel VR music has to be more atmospheric and a little bit more mood setting. Instead of in your face wall to wall music. Definitely more immersive than just music on top of something, you know? So I do tend write VR music a little bit more underscored, and a little bit more ambient.

Do you need to have a lot more leniency in sound effects then because of the potential for jump scares?

Yes, I guess but sometimes those jump scares are the desired effect! (laughs) The sound guys also do take the fact that it’s VR heavily into account. For example, not in this one but in other games, you could pick up an object and hold it right up to your ear.

Let’s say you grab a torch and put it right beside your head, you want to hear the fire going crazy! But in a normal game you couldn’t really do that. So there’s a couple of extra things you take into account especially with the sound, but also with the music.

Were you inspired at all by ambient-focused material like the original Thief games by Eric Brosius? I notice you mentioned torch sounds.

Yeah, yeah definitely. But for this project not as much because this was a weird middle ground where yes, it’s VR so you want to make it immersive but it’s still Star Trek. The music in Star Trek is bombastic and huge, ridiculously orchestrated. So I was trying to find a middle ground where I was using only the orchestra but creating a lot of textural music.

I was looking a lot into early 20th century stuff like Bartók and Holst and just trying to create these spooky space textures to go along with the orchestra.

Composer Matthew Carl Earl talks writing Star Trek: Dark Remnant’s score – Photo provided by Matthew Carl Earl

How do you feel fans have reacted overall to the audio work? Do you ever frequent Dave & Busters just to see how people react?

Yeah, yeah! We’ve done a couple of projects with VRstudios and Dave & Busters that were similar to this project. It was really fun to actually go there and see people freaking out about it. It’s often people’s first experience with VR. And it’s also VR plus, motion based, and has a ride-based features like the wind blowing in your face and stuff. It’s pretty cool to see people’s reactions!

Were you a Star Trek fan growing up?

You know I actually wasn’t I was a big Star Wars fan! (laughs) But I knew the new Star Trek films and I was pretty familiar with the music already. When I heard we were going to be working on this project I was so excited I binged on everything for two weeks. I listened to Star Trek in the car so I could get fully immersed in the Star Trek mindset and the music would come more naturally.

Do you feel it can overly influence you creatively to hear other people’s work on such a level? Or that with a license-based game people have certain audio expectations you have to meet?

You know it depends. In other games if I’m trying to write something that’s a totally original style, yes, I’d definitely worry about listening too much to one composer or style. As I wouldn’t want it to sound only like one other thing. But since this is Star Trek, and you’re trying to sell that experience, I totally want it to be within the sound that’s already established by Michael Giacchino. We did have the license for a lot of the themes, so I obviously employed those.

How big was your team? I know you’re the lead composer but I know there is a lot of other composers at Hexany Audio so I was curious, do you work primarily alone with just slight assistance here and there?

At our studio we have fifteen people and that consists of mostly sound designers and production people who help manage different things. Then we have our music team. For this project, on the music side of it, I was the sole composer until the very end.

Then another composer here, Obadiah Brown-Beach, I had him help me with the multiple branched endings. We went back and forth working on each other’s themes to make sure it’s seamless and reach deadlines. The fact we all work in the same building makes collaboration really easy.

What software do you use to record on digitally? Cubase?

Pro Tools actually.

Is that what you got used to when you were younger? Or is it a professional standard on the gaming audio side these days like Unreal Engine and Unity is on the visual side?

No, no Pro Tools was what I first started using when I was like 13 or 14, and I’ve used it ever since! I know it really well and it fits my needs, so I wouldn’t want to switch to something new. I’m totally 100% fine with it! (laughs)

We actually use Pro Tools almost exclusively in our studio because sometimes clients will actually ask for Pro Tools sessions. Especially on the sound side, not so much on the music side.

Using Pro Tools keeps everyone really synchronized, it’s still the industry standard for recording, sound engineering and stuff like that. For music, it’s not used as much but it has no drawback. So a developer wouldn’t really request to use different software in place of it.

Star Trek: Dark Remnant – Photo Credit: CBS / Paramount Pictures / VRstudios

Are you possibly going to work on a Star Trek sequel to this VR attraction?

I have no idea but more Star Trek please! This was honestly some of the most fun I’ve ever had writing music. I would 100% love to be working on more Star Trek stuff!

Find Matthew Carl Earl and Star Trek: Dark Remnant on social media

Check out Matthew Carl Earl’s official website and follow him on Soundcloud, Twitter, and Facebook! Remember to try out the Star Trek: Dark Remnant VR attraction at your local Dave & Buster’s.

Read more about Hexany Audio and and VRstudios at their respective official websites. Pro Tools is available for purchase on their official store page and Amazon for those looking to begin their own scoring journeys.

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